What is Malthusian Theory

What is Malthusian Theory?


What is Malthusianism?

Malthusian population theory, or Malthusianism, says that at high population growth the food supply would not be able to maintain its pace, generating poverty on a large scale.

According to definitionexplorer, this idea was developed during the 18th century by Thomas Malthus, an English economist and clergyman, through the dissemination of his book known as “Essay on the principle of population”.

Malthus wanted to explain that the population grew in a geometric progression, while the production and supply of food had its smallest growth, only by an arithmetic progression.

Under the Malthusian hypothesis, high population growth could make food production unsustainable, as additional workers would not produce the extra quantity needed.

At the time, Malthus argued that there should be birth control for the most humble people, in order to avoid possible “demographic chaos”. What the economist did not foresee was the arrival of more technology that would allow a much higher production of food, avoiding the catastrophe of his theory.

Neomalthusianism and other demographic theories

The Malthusian Theory appeared during a time when the majority of the population left the countryside for cities, the main case in England at the end of the 18th century.

Shortly after disseminating his theory, Malthus witnessed the Industrial Revolution, which provided more productivity to agriculture with the development of more technology, disregarding the Malthusian hypothesis.

Even so, other population theories would appear later, placing the growth of the world population on the agenda in exchange for economic development, in addition to the supply of food.

This return takes place, even, with the return of Malthusianism during the middle of the 20th century, called Neomalthusianism.

Neomalthusian Theory

With the return of Malthus’ theory, by the Neomalthusians, there was a perception of population growth in underdeveloped countries due to the greater access to health care for these people.

The theorists of Neomalthusianismo justified that the offer of greater resources to the population would generate greater expenses to the governments, distributing less resources in areas where there could be economic growth.

Reformist Population Theory

The Reformist Theory is approached mainly by defenders of Karl Marx and socialism, being against Neomalthusianism. It is also known as Antimalthusian Theory.

For reformers, overpopulation is generated as a result of poverty due to capitalism, and not as a cause of better economic conditions as advocated by the neo-Malthusians.

Because of this, the defenders of this theory are in favor of that socioeconomic programs improve the standard of living of the poorest people.

Demographic Transition Theory

This theory, developed at the end of the 1920s, disagrees with previous theories about the accelerated increase of the population.

The idea, in this case, relates the movement of people from the countryside to the city, where the population could have access to better conditions, increasing life expectancy.

The statement is that, even with the increase in life expectancy (reduction in mortality rates), people would also start to conceive less children, also reducing birth rates.

The process that this theory defends happens in different phases, which are:

Phase 1: Pre-transition

This is the stage when a country has, in its population, high birth rates and also mortality rates. This is the case where most people are in the countryside.

Due to the high birth rate, food production accelerates, but in contrast, health care and basic sanitation are scarce, also increasing mortality.

Phase 2: Start of transition

Phase in which health care and basic sanitation improve, reducing mortality rates, and part of the rural people travel to cities.

However, birth rates remain high and the result is an exponential increase in the population.

Phase 3: End of transition

The end of the transition is the phase when a good part of the population has already moved to the cities, where they found better socioeconomic conditions and health care.

This is the stage, too, where birth rates begin to decline, and the general level of the population decreases again.

Phase 4: Post-transition

In a more modern model of this theory, a fourth phase has been included where birth rates and mortality rates are low and equivalent.

There may still be a phase after this, where birth rates are below mortality rates, since a large part of the population chooses to have a small number of children.

What is Malthusian Theory